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Best Credit Cards for Beginners for September 2019

Best Credit Cards for Beginners for September 2019

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This article was last updated Sep 03, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

When it comes to building credit, the earlier the better — and choosing the right starter credit card will help you establish a good credit score. Credit cards for beginners often are basic, with few bells and whistles, but when used responsibly, you can upgrade to a better card down the line.

Deciding which starter credit card is the best fit can be challenging. Since everyone has a different credit profile and spending habits, there isn’t a single “best” beginner credit card. However, with various options to choose from, there’s something for everyone.

Before you choose a card, ask yourself a few questions that can help narrow down your choices:

  • Do you know your credit score? The first step you should take before applying for a credit card is to check your credit score. Checking your score allows you to narrow down which cards you may qualify for. You can check your score for free from most issuers.
    • If you have no credit history: No credit doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for a credit card. Secured cards are great starter credit cards that can help you build credit when you lack a credit history.
    • If you have some credit history: Even if you’ve never had a credit card before, you can still have a credit history if you have other credit products such as student or car loans. Considering credit cards for fair credit can be a good place to start.
  • Are you a student? If the answer is yes, there are student cards made just for you; and some even reward you for maintaining good grades.
  • Are you ready to take on the responsibility of credit? You may not be ready to handle managing your own credit card, so becoming an authorized user on a family member’s card account that is in good standing (meaning low balance and a history of on-time payments) can be a good alternative.

After you’ve answered those questions, you should have a good idea of the type of credit card you should look for. Whether that’s a secured card, a credit card for fair credit, or a student card, we’ll review the best credit cards for beginners. Know that in order to qualify for your first card, you need to be at least 18 years old and have a steady source of income to list on the card application. Authorized users, on the other hand, can be added at a much younger age, as only the primary account holder is liable for repayment for any and all charges made on the card.

Secured cards

A secured card is a good place to start if you’re just beginning your credit journey. It can provide you the basis to establish a solid credit history. Secured cards can be used for purchases just like unsecured cards — the difference is that you’re required to make security deposit (often a minimum of $200) which will serve as your credit line. This deposit is refundable if you pay off your balance in full and close your account or if you’re upgraded to an unsecured card.

Here are some of the best secured cards:

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.

  • Credit line will equal your security deposit of $200 or more*

  • No annual fee, no late fee on your first late payment. No penalty APR*

Highlights
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Secured

More Info

The Discover it® Secured is an all-around great secured card with rewards, a $0 annual fee, and typical $200 security deposit. It’s rare to find a secured card with a rewards program, but this card provides 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. After your account has been open for eight months, Discover will automatically begin reviewing your account to see if you qualify for an unsecured card and, if approved, you can receive your deposit back — all while still enjoying your card benefits.

  • Build Credit When Used Responsibly

  • $49, $99, or $200

  • 26.99% (Variable)

Highlights
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide

See additional details for Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

More Info

If you don’t have $200 available for a security deposit, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® provides the chance to qualify for a lower $49 or $99 deposit. Just know, you may not qualify for a lower deposit, in which case you’ll need to deposit $200. Regardless of the required minimum deposit, you’ll receive a $200 credit limit. This card doesn’t offer rewards, but does have a $0 annual fee and allows you to receive a higher credit limit when you make your first five monthly payments on time.

Read our guide on the best secured cards.

Credit cards for fair credit

If you have “fair” credit (those whose FICO scores are between 580-669, according to credit bureau Experian), it can be hard to find cards that aren’t laden with high fees. However, there are some options from major banks, including Capital One, that offer reasonable fees and rewards. When used responsibly, these cards can help you improve your credit, so you can qualify for credit cards for good credit.

Here are some of the best credit cards for fair credit:

  • Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back

  • No rotating categories, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and no limit to how much you can earn

  • 26.96% (Variable)

Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

See additional details for Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

More Info

If you have average/fair/limited credit and want to earn rewards, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good choice. Cardholders earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. There is a $39 annual fee, but you can recoup it if you spend $2,600 a year on the card.

  • Access a higher credit line by making first 5 monthly payments on time

  • Pay no annual fee

  • 26.96% (Variable)

Highlights
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

See additional details for Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

More Info

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a no-frills card for average/fair/limited credit that won’t earn you any rewards, but does have a $0 annual fee. If you use this card responsibly to build credit, after several months you should see improvements in your credit score and may be able to qualify for no annual fee rewards cards. Also, you might be able to get a higher credit limit after making your first five payments on time.

Read our guide on the best credit cards for fair credit.

Student cards

Building credit while you’re still in college is key to setting yourself up for future financial success. If you use a credit card responsibly as a student, you can build a good credit score that’ll help you down the line when trying to get an auto loan, mortgage, cellphone or apartment lease approval.

Here are some of the best student cards:

  • No FICO History Required

  • 0% for 6 Months*

  • 14.99% - 23.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO®
  • Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Student Cash Back

More Info

  • 0% for 6 Months*

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

  • 14.99% - 23.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.99% - 23.99%.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Student chrome

More Info

Discover offers two student cards, the Discover it® Student Cash Back and the Discover it® Student chrome . Both cards have $0 annual fees, cashback programs and offer students the chance to earn a $20 statement credit each school year they maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA for up to five consecutive years.

Here are the cashback programs:

    • Discover it® Student Cash Back: Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    • Discover it® Student chrome : 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Consider an alternative, the Petal Visa® Credit Card, if you’re looking to build credit and don’t have credit history.

Alternative to opening a credit card: Become an authorized user

Credit cards have a lot of moving pieces to deal with, from annual fees and interest rates to payment due dates and credit limits. As the primary cardholder, you’re responsible for all this and more. It can be worthwhile, but if you’re not ready to take on the liability for your own credit card, consider asking a family member to add you as an authorized user on their card account.

Becoming an authorized user allows you to piggyback off someone else’s credit, without bearing any responsibility for making payments. Just make sure the account you’re being added to is in good standing, has a low balance and is paid on time all the time. Once added as an authorized user to the card, the history of that card will appear on your credit reports. While you’re not responsible for paying the bills, your family member is, so if you do use the card (you don’t have to use it to have it appear on your credit reports), repay the primary cardholder for your charges so as not to create any ill will. Once your credit score has benefited from being an authorized user, you can then apply for a card of your own and then ask to be removed from the authorized user card.

Bottom line

Choosing a starter credit card can seem daunting, but if you answer some important questions that help narrow down your search, you can find the right card. Whether it’s a secured card, credit card for fair credit, or a student card, there are plenty of options. And, if you’re not ready to open your own credit card, you can ask a family member to add you as an authorized user and begin building credit that way. Once you’ve established a fair or good credit score and are comfortable using plastic to pay for purchases, you can open your own card down the road.

This article contains links to MagnifyMoney, which is also owned by LendingTree.


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